Viking Offshore Services to Build Six New Field Support Rescue Vessels

Viking Offshore Services has announced a multi-million pound investment in the construction of at least six new vessels in a move that signals its long-term commitment to the North Sea.

The new-build program, valued at over £36million, will see six new purpose-built vessels added to the company's fleet in a major modernisation program that also paves the way for Viking Offshore to expand into other European oil and gas markets.

The contract, which carries an option for a further three vessels and would bring the total investment to over £55million, has been placed with the Astilleros Zamakona shipyard in Bilbao, Spain. Work will get under way later this year with the first vessel expected to be delivered in the last quarter of 2006, in a rolling program of construction.

IMT Marine Consultants of Montrose, Scotland, designed the new vessels, which incorporate features from Viking's previous new-build programs along with a number of new and innovative features.

Commenting on what is believed to be the largest single investment in new tonnage in the history of the ERRV industry, Viking Offshore Services chief executive Graham Philip said:

"The scale of this investment reaffirms our determination to remain a leading, long-term player in offshore standby and emergency response services. It reflects our commitment to the provision of the highest standards of operational and safety management while continually seeking improvement and innovation".

"The new vessels will carry a series of enhanced characteristics, adding value to our customers in terms of, for example, their ability to service multiple offshore installations and their ability to provide inter field cargo capacity".

"We have a long and successful track-record in providing quality services to clients but to maintain that it is vital we keep moving ahead. This new contract, on the back of other recent strategic developments within the company, helps take us into effectively a new era of growth."

"We look forward to the delivery of these new vessels, which will significantly increase the number of enhanced and multi-role vessels in our fleet, as we seek to develop the business both geographically and in service provision terms."

The Aberdeen-based company is the largest operator of dedicated standby vessels in the North Sea. It changed its name in June 2005 to Viking Offshore Services from BUE Viking, to reflect the acquisition of 100% ownership of the company in August 2004 by Viking Supply Ships A/S, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Norwegian investment firm Kistefos A/S.

The new additions to the fleet are designed to offer the ability to service multiple installations with the highest standards of recovery and rescue support. The new vessels will enhance the overall capabilities of Viking's 33-strong fleet, replacing older vessels within it, as they are delivered.

All the new vessels will be built to comply with the technical and operational specifications required to operate across the UK, Irish, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch sectors, Graham Philip added:

"It is important to our strategic growth aspirations that we are able to seek work in other waters beyond the UK continental shelf. These additions to our service offering will allow us to pursue those opportunities".

"This newbuild program marks the first step in an ongoing process of fleet and company development with a vision to expand the business both technically and geographically through other specific contract-based newbuild projects, vessel purchase and conversions, or corporate acquisitions".

"We have established a clear, long-term strategy with the company's shareholder, and have also concluded a new long term financing facility with the Bank of Scotland and The Royal Bank of Scotland that, along with a significant equity investment from Kistefos, both funds the new-build program and creates a stable platform for longer term growth."